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Little explanation for Matt Every's mixed bag of results

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Maybe it's the old "horses for courses" axiom. Maybe it's a matter of success compounding itself. Maybe it's all just one big happy coincidence.

Matt Every doesn't have an explanation. He doesn't have a good theory as to why he has won each of the past two Arnold Palmer Invitational titles.

Ask him and he candidly replies, "I don't know. I wish I knew, you know."

It's hardly the first instance of a player thriving on a specific course. Tiger Woods has won here at Bay Hill Club & Lodge eight times. Then again, he's Tiger Woods and Matt Every is, well, Matt Every.

That might sound like an insult, but there's no shame in paling in comparison to one of the game's greatest players. Before each of those eight wins -- not to mention most of his other 71 in PGA Tour competition -- Woods was the prohibitive favorite, then simply proved everyone right a few days later.

Every has never been the favorite. Not here, not anywhere.

His two wins at Bay Hill are the only two of his career -- and they've been sandwiched by an alphabet soup of MCs and WDs that only make his success here more curious.

That first victory wasn't a complete shock. He had finished in the top 25 in each of his previous three starts and five of his previous seven going into that week. For a guy who was born and raised just a few hours up the road, it was the culmination of some burgeoning results.

The second one was more unexpected. Entering this tournament last year, Every hadn't finished better than 27th, then successfully defended his title.

If that was unexpected, then what has happened since can be better classified as unexplainable.

He hasn't posted another top-10 in the past 51 weeks. He has withdrawn from five tournaments.

His rationale is cringeworthy stuff.

"After I won here last year, I went through this, I guess, a funk -- kind of like blacking out over the ball," he admitted Tuesday in advance of going after a three-peat. "I hit these foul balls with my driver, and you just can't compete out here when you're reloading on the tee and then that stuff builds up. Like, you hit one and then it's in your head and it's hard to forget them."

Every insists these blackouts occur only with a driver in his hands. There's no warning sign beforehand, no premonition of what is about to happen.

It's always the same miss.

A high block to the right that often ends up out of bounds.

The first one happened in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last year. Third hole on Kapalua's Plantation Course. It became a more frequent occurrence after that.

"Scar tissue builds up," he said. "I would get over it and think, 'What am I even doing over the ball?'"

Now, Every is trying to think about nothing. No swing thoughts, no inner voice in his mind when he takes the club back.

"I'm just trying to keep it simple over the ball. For me, I don't think it's that technical. I think it's more trust, and that just comes with repetition. I'm trying to practice less and play more, especially when I'm home."

He maintains that he's getting better. He's improving when standing over the ball with his driver.

The blackouts happen only in competition. He'd gotten past them for a little while, but one crept back last week. It was the seventh hole in the opening round of the Valspar Championship and -- boom -- he didn't know what he was doing over the ball, then hit a big slice that led to a bogey.

As to whether he's working with anyone on the mental side of the game, he smiles and admits, "I do have a psychologist, but it's not really a sports one."

For a player suffering such a debilitating stumbling block to his game, Every is extremely open. He's honest. Yet he doesn't seem to have many answers, either.

The truth is, his explanation as to why he sometimes blacks out over the ball mirrors his explanation about how he's been able to win this tournament each of the past two years.

He doesn't know. Has no idea.

After an amalgam of missed cuts and withdrawals, with such a mixed bag of results since that last victory, if he's somehow able to prevail once again this week, Every probably will have even less of an idea as to why it actually happened.